When I was around 10-12 years old, ( 1976-78), in Delhi, during dussehra break, watching night “ramlila” would be a much cherished activity. It used to start with the prayer –

ए मालिक तेरे बन्दे हम,
ऐसे हों हमारे कर्म…..
नेकी पर चलें, और बदी से डरें
ताकि हँसते हुए निकलें दम….

Our motoo se billu bhaiya would always get the role of hanumaan.

During summer vacation, our very respected local uncle used to take one hour Ramayan class on the terrace of our colony temple. The weekly antakshari of ram charit manas chaupais used to be an exciting competition among the kids. Uncle used to teach us the meaning of chaupais, and recitation of ramcharitmanas. The most famous being –

मंगल भवन अमंगल हारी
द्रवसु दसरथ अजिर बिहारी

कोमल चित्त अति दीन दयाला
कारण बिन रघुनाथ कृपाला

The winners would often get small gifts.

On Tuesdays, kids’ group would gather and go to temple with boondi prasad for hanuman ji’s bhog. The struggle would be to catch hold of the big bell (घंटा ) which was at a hight and we all were too short. The arti would be –

आरती कीजे हनुमान लला की
दुष्ट दलन रघुनाथ कला की
जाके बल से गिरिवर कांपे
रोग शोक जाके निकट न झांके….

Come नवरात्री, and daily afternoon ladies kirtans would be our source of entertainment. There would be many jaagarans in the colony. The melody of bhents of Maa would fill the atmosphere with much energy.

अम्बे जग दाती दी,
कह के जय माता दी
टुर या जाँवी
वेखीँ पेंडे तो न घबरावीं….

And

आए तेरे नवराते दातिये आए तेरे नवराते
कंजका पूजा जोत जलावा
रोज़ करा जगरातेदतिये आए तेरे नवराते….

The prasad of garm garm halwa and black chane during early morning would give heavenly taste… 😊

The grandfathers’ group used to have a daily evening gathering for geeta-path. It would end with the prayer –

अब सौंप दिया इस जीवन का
सब भार तुम्हारे हाथों में…
है जीत तुम्हारे हाथों में
और हार तुम्हारे हाथों में….

Come janmashtami, and the kids’ competition would start, of getting a role in the krishan Leela. The most beautiful or the kids of Mandir Trust families used to have the fortune to become Radha and Krishna. The dance would be on –

छोटी छोटी गैया छोटे छोटे ग्वाल
छोटो सो मेरो मदन गोपाल..

And

नटवर नागर नंदा
भजो रे मन गोविन्दा
सांवली सूरत मुख चंदा
भजो रे मन गोविन्दा

That mid night special prasad and special charnamrit would complete our day😊

And, on Guru purabs ( Guru Nanak dev jis prakash utsav) the same groups of kids would jouously participate with dumbles and laziums in the shobha yatra. The shabad sung –

दुनियां दे दुःख दूर करन नू
जन्म लया ननकाने
धरती ते ओ आ गया
जेड़ा सब दे दिलाँ दिया जाने

And prabhaat feri would have such melodious shabads –

सच्चे पातशाह, बक्शो मेरे गुनाह
मैं निमा णा
तू बे अंत तेरा अंत न जाणा

Throughout the shobha yatra, fruits, drinks, and delicacies would be lovingly offered, in plenty, especially to the kids participating in it.

All these childhood memories left lasting impression on our hearts. Although not even a single picture or video is available.

And now, (2020-21)

Kids are being denied even a free g playing together in the park inside society, forget everything else. What impressions are being created on their tender hearts, I often wonder.

May the same old fun filled, may be a bit loud and noisy, times and celebrations return. May these tender hearts also accumulate sweet memories. May Almighty shower its Grace and blessings, especially on kids. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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